New Sri Lankan chief justice joins office amid protests

Colombo, Jan 23 (IANS) Sri Lanka's new chief justice Mohan Peiris joined his office Wednesday amidst continued disapproval by the international community and the island's lawyers.

Though Justic Peiris was sworn in before President Mahinda Rajapaksa Jan 15, the official inauguration ceremony was scheduled for Wednesday.

Justice Peiris arrived at the Supreme Court complex in the morning to attend the ceremonial event which usually includes an address by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Xinhua reported.

The 11,000-strong BASL, however, decided they would not attend the event in keeping with a unanimous decision made in December.

Since November, the BASL has launched a string of protests against the impeachment of former chief justice Shirani Bandaranayake and steadfastly maintained that her removal was illegal and undermined the judiciary's independence.

The government accused her of corruption, an allegation she denies.

"This is another step towards tyranny. People who should have fought the impeachment did not do so and this is the tragic result, " said Srinath Perera, a BASL member and lawyer, after the ceremony.

Media turned out in droves to cover the ceremony but only the state media were allowed inside.

Meanwhile, the US Wednesday expressed concern over threats and attacks against lawyers and members of civil society organisations in the aftermath of the controversial impeachment.

The US embassy here said it was disturbed by the series of threats and attacks against legal defenders, civil society organisations and activists who spoke out on recent events.

Sri Lanka has faced a barrage of criticism from the Britain, Commonwealth and other international organisations for its removal of Bandaranayke earlier this month.

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